Coach Allister Coetzee, seen here with captain Eben Etzebeth at a press conference. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Coach Allister Coetzee, seen here with captain Eben Etzebeth at a press conference. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix
Duane Vermeulen talks to Malcolm Marx during a training session. Photo: SA Rugby
Duane Vermeulen talks to Malcolm Marx during a training session. Photo: SA Rugby

PARIS - South Africa captain Eben Etzebeth lauded the return of powerful back rower Duane Vermeulen for Saturday's international Test against France.

Vermeulen wasn't part of South Africa's original squad for their European tour this month but following injuries to fellow forwards Pieter-Steph du Toit and Coenie Oosthuizen, he was brought back into the group by head coach Allister Coetzee.

"He's an exceptional option at the lineout; we all know Duane's a world class No.8," said lock Etzebeth. "He's a good ball carrier, tackler, stealer. Also he's captained Toulon. He gives great leadership out on the field, so yes, it's awesome to have him back."

Coetzee had explained on Thursday when naming his side that he needed Vermeulen's lineout expertise to offset the loss of Du Toit, something hooker Malcolm Marx appreciates.

"(Lock) Lood (de Jager) makes the calls and Pieter-Steph being out is a loss, but Duane came in and did the same thing (in training)," said Marx.

"Obviously he brings a big part of experience in here, he knows exactly what he's doing. (But) it doesn't make my pressure any more or any less, I've just got to focus on my own job and get the ball in and out."

Marx has only won 12 caps but has already scored three tries and drawn comparisons to Springbok legend Bismarck du Plessis.

"It's a great honour, obviously he's a great player, he's served South Africa very, very well," sad Marx.

"I played against him once before, he's an awesome player and I really, really respect him. Obviously I'd like to be my own person as well but to be compared to him is a huge honour for me."

'High ceiling'

The 23-year-old Lions front rower has a long way to go to match veteran Du Plessis's 79 caps and 11 tries over an eight-year international career, but he has impressed his coach.

"Malcom Marx is only on his 12th cap now, he's a player with a very high ceiling and he will still get better," said Coetzee. "I don't think he's at his best at this point in time but he's improved tremendously.

"He's a fantastic talent with power and pace; he's very explosive and the big thing for me is the way he's grown at set piece time. It's really been good. He's got a lot to learn still but he's a fast learner fortunately.

"Hopefully Malcolm can come up with another great performance this weekend."

More so even than France, who lost 38-18 to New Zealand last weekend, South Africa are looking to show a marked improvement on their record 38-3 loss to Ireland in Dublin last Saturday.

And Etzebeth believes they can turn around their fortunes and make it six straight wins against France, having already defeated their opponents three times this year in June alone.

"We sat down on Sunday, the team, and had a tough chat but so far this week we've had very good preparation," said the captain. "It's gone well so we're happy to go into the game on Saturday.

"We've been doing what's necessary to win the Test match; the coaches came up with a plan, everyone is buying into it."

But the Boks know that France are a side that can blow even hotter and colder than they do.

"You never know with the French, you never know what to expect so we're prepared for all areas and hopefully we're well enough prepared to see what we can do this weekend," said speedy winger Courtnall Skosan.

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